Thanks to all the family and friends who have come out tonight... it's kind of a lose-lose situation for those of us who loved Mom, because while she'd be happy you were here, she would be irritated at all of us for causing such a fuss over her.
Jan asked me to write the eulogy some time ago, and even until yesterday, I was struggling with what to say. But after talking with the family and the people that loved her yesterday, I was able to do it quickly.
I got the call Tuesday morning that Mom had passed away.
I work in a coffee shop in Birmingham, AL, where my wife and I live. There had been severe storms in the area over those few days, and the power was out in many neighborhoods, making our little store the place to be for breakfast and coffee... meaning, we were quite busy all morning long. So when my phone rang, I wasn't able to take the call. I continued working, intending on checking the message as soon as I could.
But when the phone rang again... and then for a third, then fourth time in a row, I knew. I knew it had happened. I asked to leave the floor, and quickly went to call back. And I heard what I knew I would hear... "Momma just passed away." It wasn't unexpected, mind you, she had been sick for a while, had been in and out of the hospital for some time now. But it was still painful. I sat on the backroom floor, next to a grungy mop sink and I cried for a few minutes. Because the woman who raised me was gone.
But oh what a life she lived. At almost 80 years old, she lived a full life, perhaps a hard life sometimes, maybe an unexciting life but a full life nonethless. But if I could describe her life in one word, and one word only, I would say this word. Love. Because, you see, its not a stretch to say she was our family matriarch, she was the center tree in a forest full of kids, grandkids, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and more.
She loved many things. She loved her NASCAR. She loved watching racing on Sunday afternoons, watching grown men making left turns for three hours. She had the opportunity to go to a race once, and she loved it so, so much, though she told me it was 3 hours of racing, and 3 hours of trying to leave the parking lot.
She loved her sewing and her gardening. One of the jokes I told my friends was that she could make a stone grow into a beautiful plant, harvest those leaves and knit you a quilt with them, while turning the stems into a casserole that would melt in your mouth. In her later years, she was unable to sew those quilts, those coasters, those pot holders, and kneel in her garden and it saddened her greatly... because she loved doing those things.
She loved her TV shows... as a kid, I remember sitting up late with her on the couch and watching Night Court, laughing at jokes that I didn't fully understand until years later. She loved her Wheel of Fortune, she loved her game shows, she loved her country music, she loved her Phase 10 and her Skip Bo. She loved those things.
She loved being real. She didn't put up a front for anyone, she was who she was, and she didn't put up with anyone who did try to be fake. Once, I brought home some friends from college and in a rousing game of Phase 10, one of my friends decided it would be a good idea to skip Mama Dollar--that's what all the friends called her. She glared at him, then called him a Poop-Butt, only she had a more colorful term for it. And in those two expletives, he felt love because she said it with such a friendly smile, and such a warm spirit. She loved being real with people.
She loved walking up to the library and sitting and talking with Mrs. Susie... she loved talking a stroll to the IGA supermarket for some light groceries... she loved sitting on her front porch, waving at cars that would drive by as some teenager she didn't recognize would yell "Hey Mom!"... she loved having my friends like Chris and Greg and Tonya come over so she could laugh with them, sometimes at them... she loved going up to The Wrights for dinner... She loved them.
She loved her husband. She loved John, my dad, with all of her heart. They met later in their life, but she loved him with a ferocity that couldn't be matched. Despite his flaws, despite his failures, despite his later years where he began to forget, where he began to end, she loved him until his dying day. She would say that she dreamed about him coming to see her, to the point that she was convinced she was awake when he visited. Who am I to tell her she's wrong.
She loved her brothers and sisters. She loved Merva Lee and their days together, as they would ride up to the commissary to buy groceries. She loved Hilda's singing and Ruby and Earleen, and were so glad when they moved here, so she could see them on a regular basis. She loved her brothers dearly, too. When Uncle Opal died and she couldn't be there, she sat in her room and cried for an hour. She loved them.
She loved her girls. Betty Joyce... Dinky... Nan... and Bug. She loved them so deeply. Perhaps she wasn't always the best mom. Perhaps she didn't have all the answers. Perhaps she made mistakes, sometimes big, sometimes small... but she loved Betty, Linda, Jan and Judy. Maybe it was Mom who taught them to love as well. She would defend her girls to her dying day over anything and anybody. She loved them. Betty, Linda, Judy, Jan... she loves you still, even as she walks streets of gold.
She loved her grandkids. She loved Linda's girl, April. She thought April was so beautiful and so smart and when I asked--and sometimes when I didn't--how April was doing, she would brag on April, and how she finished school and how she was working here and how she was doing this. She loved you, and was proud of you.
She loved Betty's kids, Marty, Frankie Jr and Shannon. Three separate children, three completely different personalities, but she loved them all just the same. She loved Marty's ambition, she loved Frankie Jr's loyalty to his family, she loved Shannon and her goofiness. She loved spending weeks at a time in Virginia with them, grandkids and great-grandkids alike crawling all over their Granny Dollar.
She loved Judy's boys, Steven and John. She watched them grow up, she watched them become men, and she would tell me frequently where they were in the world, what they were doing, and how proud she was of them, often showing off the things that they would bring back to her from far away lands. Steven, John... she loved you and was so proud of all you've done.
She loved Jan's boys, Shawn, Chris and Bobby. She also watched them grow up, and she never judged them for any mistakes that were made. Instead, she bragged how proud she was of them about what they came through, and what they were becoming. And how much she loved her great-grandkids too. Shawn, Chris, Bobby... she loved you three for the men you've become.
|Our final picture together. She passed a week later.|
I believe that there is a legacy left behind. And that legacy is love. If any of us could love our spouses... love our children... love our grandchildren... love those around us as much as Velma Dollar loved... we could consider ourselves blessed beyond measure.
She loved. And I know that she would want you to do the same.